Right to Work Just Part of Michigan's Big Turn Right

By Kyle Melinn

Sorry, Democrats.

Gov. Rick Snyder and his Republican elves in the legislature are leaving no presents under your tree this Christmas.

The way things are shaking out this lame duck, the GOP gang is more prone to pull a Grinch — shoving the tree, the trimmings and the roast beast back up the chimney to be piled into a sleigh that´s shoved over a cliff.

It´s just not right to work. The ultimate political assault on organized labor and Democrats aside, Snyder & friends are gearing up a Christmas list chocked full of goodies for their business buddies, Bible-hugging conservatives and Tea Party subscribers.

We’re talking another big tax cut. Another try at emergency manager legislation. Guns in more places. More abortion regulations. More tinkering with struggling school districts.

Think tanks like the Center for Michigan and Michigan Future argue that bringing Michigan’s laws closer to other low-wage states like Mississippi, where the standard of living and the investment in quality of life public services is lower, chases away young talent looking for jobs in the knowledge-based economy.

An agenda that disinvests from its people and public offerings makes Michigan a low-prosperity state, they argue.

The state’s politically minded business leaders, however, have a different vision. Emboldened by an Election Day that was good for Republicans in the places it mattered, party high-rollers Dick DeVos, Ron Weiser and their ideological soulmates have convinced lawmakers and Snyder that now is the time to clear the bucket list.

Why put off the tough decisions when they’ll only get tougher over time?

Voters just turned down Proposal 2, organized labor’s collective bargaining ballot proposal, by 16 percentage points. Six Republican House members lost their re-election bids, giving them a free pass to vote conservative without any fear of political repercussions. The Supreme Court is arguably friendly to the cause.

Every day that goes by is another day closer to Nov. 4, 2014, and re-election day for Snyder and three-quarters of the state Senate, making any tough vote just a little bit tougher to pull off.

The Democrats? Why worry about them? Why bother working with them? As far as the Republicans are concerned, who needs them?

They fought the new Corporate Income Tax and the R’s other business friendly changes to project labor agreements, unemployment insurance reform, workers compensation and insurance premiums/benefit contributions for public workers.

Blasting through a blatantly partisan business and social agenda in the waning days of the 96th Legislature without them after advancing an aggressive business agenda in 2011 would seem automatic.

In numerous meetings since Nov. 6, labor begged Snyder, House Speaker Jase Bolger and Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville for anything but right to work.

But labor couldn’t sell its soul completely enough for Republicans. And right to work, et al., will be the result.

The following is a breakdown of the menu of conservative red meat being force fed through the legislative meat grinder in lame duck — little, if any, of which the Democrats have the power to stop

1. Right to work — The literal and symbolic slap in the face to the birthplace of the organized labor movement, this policy gives workers the ability to stop paying union dues in union shops. This weakens labor’s leverage at the bargaining table while cutting off a percentage of funding to the union itself. That limits labor’s ability to assist their members and fund future Democratic political candidates.

2. Personal property tax repeal — The tax local governments are allowed to place on manufacturing equipment would go away under a plan being pushed by Lt. Gov. Brian Calley. The replacement funding mechanism isn’t 100 percent, though. That’s a problem for local governments, which claim to have swallowed more than $4 billion in state cuts for the last decade or so.

The complicated funding formula and local taxing assessment being created as a replacement aside, locals want full replacement. The Snyder administration claims there isn’t enough money in the budget for that.

3. New emergency manager law — Voters said they didn’t want P.A. 4, the state’s emergency manager law that gave these gubernatorial appointees the power to break union contracts in cash-strapped local governments and municipalities.

But with Detroit teetering on the brink of bankruptcy, Snyder is pushing a P.A. 4 alternative that would give the voters in these troubled areas the choice of four options: an emergency manager who can break union contracts; mediation; a binding consent agreement; or bankruptcy.

4. Education Achievement Authority — Snyder used an interlocal agreement to create an authority to oversee Detroit’s struggling school district, which hasn’t been making the grade under any standard for years. Now, he wants to expand the EAA in statute for the state’s lowest performing schools, which would appear to include Lansing.

The rub is that existing teacher labor contracts in these schools would be thrown out the window and public school buildings could be sold or leased to charter schools without the OK of local officials. The degree of untested change being allowed to happen in these EAA-managed districts also have administrators concerned their students will be turned into “lab rats.”

5. Abortion clinic regulations — The last time a chamber took up a bill requiring stepped-up inspection and licensing of abortion clinics, Michigan made national news when Rep. Lisa Brown was censured for saying “vagina.”

These Right to Life- and the Michigan Catholic Conference-supported bills do more than say fetal remains can’t be tossed in a dumpster while screening out pregnant women being coerced into an abortion. They create a licensing and regulatory environment pro-choice activists are concerned are meant to shut down abortion clinics.

6. Concealed weapons — Forget about libraries. Gun owners who undergo the right amount of training can carry their concealed weapons into schools, churches, bars, daycares, college dorms, hospitals and stadiums under legislation that’s passed the Senate. New restrictions are being put on those who can open carry, but the net result would appear to be more guns in more places.

7. ‘Religious liberty and conscience’ — The final passage of legislation giving doctors and health facilities a legal out if they deny to a patient any procedure they morally object to isn’t as clear as the rest. This recycled legislation scores one-chamber victories periodically. Could this be the year it goes all the way?

8. Medical malpractice — Bills protecting doctors from enormous medical malpractice settlements create a tighter framework under which patients can sue. Despite being fought by the state’s trial lawyers, these bills being pushed by Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman and physician Roger Kahn seem to have critical mass.

9. Gray wolf hunting — Upper Peninsula farmers are tired of their livestock disappearing in the middle of the night, so a bill giving the DNR the power to set a wolf hunting season is in the works. Environmentalists and Indian tribes are appalled that the once endangered species is moving into hunters’ crosshairs.

10. Election recall reform — You want to get rid of a legislator early for any of this stuff? Recalling a state representative is made harder under legislation that limits legislative recalls to a one-year window in the middle of the lawmaker’s two-year term. It also requires the reason for a recall to be “factual,” according to a county election commission.